Medford Lakes veteran reflects on time in the Navy

Bob Barrall's life in and after the Navy took odd turns from being a Naval chef, to a public school teacher to a job at a pharmaceutical company.

Bob Barrall, 92, poses with images from his time in and after his service in the Navy.

When Medford Lakes resident Bob Barrall found himself in the Navy at the end of World War II, the experience helped reshape his life.

Private First Class Barrall served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. However, stationed in Hawaii right after Pearl Harbor, Barrall never saw war action.

Like everybody in the service, they were very happy to get out,” Barrall said. “Nobody wanted to be there and it was because when you were in the Army, Navy or Marines, they took you out of the streets somewhere and put you there because there’s a war. You had to learn a lot of things about the service.

The 92-year-old said when he was sent to Treasure Island in California before being stationed in Hawaii, many of the men had no idea where they were going and had to remain as quiet as possible due to the possibility of enemy submarines (Japan, Italy and Germany) being in the area.

In Barrall’s case, he wasn’t old enough to enlist in the military on his own, but was able to do so after his father and Army veteran, Edward Barrall, gave permission. Barrall took a chance in life and left high school after completing his junior year to serve.

I was one of those guys that didn’t want to go to school and there were a lot of guys like me,” he added.

Enlistment for Barrall occurred at the height of the war, which helped him decide with which branch to enlist.

People in the Army were getting killed and people were getting killed, too, in the Navy, but my thinking was if they sink my ship, I can swim,” he joked. “Only a kid can think of those kind of things.”

His path in the Navy, however, took an interesting turn as the ranking officers sent him to the kitchen to be a cook for the “30,000-some people on the island.” The officers learned of his parents’ experience in baking sticky buns and Bavarian bread in a Pennsylvania Dutch bakery, and figured Barrall must’ve picked up on those skills growing up.

There, he comically found his favorite “weapon” of choice…a spatula.

“My family had a bakery underneath our house and one of those Pennsylvania Dutch jobs where they make Bavarian bread and sticky buns, and my job was to hop on my bike with a basket in front of it and it was loaded with bread, some sticky buns and I would ride it down the street and drop it off at places,” he said.

The port, Pearl Harbor, was rebuilt shortly following the bombing, he said, because it was, and still is, the home of the Navy’s telecommunications. From that base, messages were sent out to other branches of service and the Allied Forces.

Following his two years in the Navy, Barrall went back to finish high school and later attended East Stroudsburg University for a teaching certificate. The veteran taught for one year at Lower Camden County Regional High School, which is now known as Eastern Regional High School, and for an additional three years in Berlin Borough’s school district.

The last year I taught, I was being paid poorly and teachers were being paid poorly too, but it was the only thing I knew,” Barrall said. “I didn’t have all of the qualifications to get here or there.

He found his way to Pfiezer, informing doctors about how certain medications will treat patients’ ailments and if they will interact negatively with one another. He admitted he didn’t know there was a calling for people like him that knew that type of knowledge, and stuck with the profession for roughly 30 years.

As time progresses, Barrall said he believes it wouldn’t hurt for younger, eligible kids to participate in the five branches of service (Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and National Guard) in some shape or form.

When you go to grade school and college, you learn what they want to teach you,” he added. “What you learn in the service is something you don’t learn from books. There’s an education out there that’s built for people in what you can’t get from books. You have to be out in the world and see it.